On Friday, online travel-booking platform Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE) pulled its 2020 guidance for adjusted EBITDA. Last year, its adjusted EBITDA came in at $2.1 billion, and it had previously been forecasting double-digit percentage growth this year. However, when it provided that outlook on Feb. 13, the company stated that it was expecting a $30 million to $40 million EBITDA hit from coronavirus in the first quarter. But with the outbreak having reached pandemic levels, the company now sees that prediction as too optimistic.
"As COVID-19 has rapidly spread from Asia to Europe and North America over the past few weeks, travel trends have continued to worsen," said Chairman Barry Diller and Vice Chairman Peter Kern in a press release. "It remains difficult to predict how long this pandemic will persist, and given the lack of visibility on our trends we've decided to withdraw our 2020 guidance."
Notably, many nations' travel restrictions were implemented late in this quarter, suggesting that the hardest hit to the travel industry could come later in the year.
Similarly, on Monday, Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG) pulled its first-quarter 2020 guidance.
Bracing for the worst
On Feb. 26, Booking Holdings held its fourth-quarter earnings call, and issued Q1 guidance that attempted to factor in the negative impact of COVID-19. The company guided for a non-GAAP (adjusted) revenue decline of 3% to 7% on a constant currency basis, adjusted EBITDA of $560 million to $590 million, and non-GAAP earnings per share of $9.05 to $9.65 -- down 14% to 19% year over year. That it felt compelled to pull that guidance less than two weeks later suggests just how rapidly conditions in the travel industry are declining.
Expedia so far has only withdrawn its adjusted EBITDA guidance, as it monitors the rapidly changing situation. However, shareholders should also note that it has suspended its share buyback program. From early December through February, it was on a share-buying spree -- repurchasing 5.8 million shares for $634 million. Excluding undisclosed repurchases in the last month, it still has approximately 23 million shares worth of buybacks on its authorization, and at steep discounts to the average $110.72 per share it paid in December.
Given the considerable uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, Expedia is choosing to maintain liquidity for now, even if its shares are down around 55% from their 52-week highs.